Nov 25, 2008 11:35 am


Months (yes, months) of wrangling between treasury and Citigroup ended with treasury's total capitulation. Citigroup was determined to get it's share of the bailout pie and it did despite the failure of its initial attempt to camouflage the government bailout as a Citigroup rescue of Wachovia. When the treasury tried to balk Citi threatened to take on more debt!

Last Monday, Mr. Pandit said in a meeting with employees that Citigroup was scrapping plans to try to sell about $80 billion in risky assets. Investors and analysts interpreted the move as a sign that Citigroup either was unable to sell the assets, or would have had to incur hefty losses in the process.

Two days later, Citigroup announced it was buying $17.4 billion in assets from its structured-investment vehicles -- complex entities whose holdings included risky mortgage-linked securities -- and faced a $1.1 billion loss due to their diminished values.

The back-to-back moves, coupled with existing fears about Citigroup's massive off-balance-sheet holdings, stoked investor fears that Citigroup could be swamped by toxic assets flooding back onto its books. That helped ignite the current panic, which was exacerbated by a drumbeat of bleak economic news.

Treasury cried uncle. So, it is small wonder that Citigroup stocks rose 58% today. With such an advantageous deal how can it not.

The Saudi prince who increased his holdings 4 days ago, had impeccable timing. He has not only made a fortune but given the fact that Obama's economic team are Robert Rubin men secures him access to the country's economic masters. Hence, The government didn't require Citigroup to make changes to its executive ranks or its board in return for government assistance. Nice. Right?

There is more - The 312 billion dollar potential Citi loses were to be divided in a most interesting way. Citi will absorb the first 30 billion, i.e, under 10%. The government the rest. In the end, we taxpayers may absorb even more and Citi less.

Despite the unprecedented scope of the rescue plan, it's not clear whether it will be enough to stabilize Citigroup. The roughly $300 billion pool of assets that are included in the rescue plan represent only a sliver of the company's more than $3 trillion in assets, including its holdings in off-balance-sheet entities.

Jitters about such"hidden" assets helped trigger the nose-dive in Citigroup's stock last week. Among the off-balance-sheet assets are $667 billion in mortgage-related securities.

Pundit deserves a large bonus. Doesn't he?

This has only just begun. I do not see how other banks can justify staying away from the public troth. What can I say, we taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners.

For more on Saudis and Citigroup click here.

Even WSJ editors ask why Rubin and company still have jobs.

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